Mark D. Roberts

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How do we respond to the unbearably tragic crisis at Virginia Tech? There are no simple answers. Our first responses are visceral: shock, horror, sadness, fear, grief. Thank God we aren’t immune to evil in such a way that we no longer feel such revulsion and pain.
As a person of faith, part of me wants to run to God to demand an accounting for such evil. There is a place for this conversation, to be sure, but I believe we should begin by praying for those whose lives have been ripped to shreds by this tragedy. I’m thinking mostly of families and friends of the dead. We must also pray for the healing of the wounded, for all who are connnected to Virginia Tech.
Though I’m not surprised, I’m grieved once again by the tendency of some to use such a crisis for personal or political advantage. Predictably, both sides of the gun lobby were quickly using this tragedy to argue for or against gun ownership. This is an important debate, to be sure, and one we must have as a nation. But, in my opinion, now is not the time for punditry, but for prayer.
There is a place, I think, for thoughtful and sensitive reflection on the implications of the Virginia Tech tragedy. Newsweek’s “On Faith” website asks its contributors: “How does your faith tradition explain (and respond to) senseless tragedies such as the Virginia Tech shootings?” As usual, there are a variety of answers from a wide range of religious (and non-religious) perspectives. I have found the following submissions to be particularly wise:

“God With Us, Grieving,” by N. T. Wright;
“God of Hope and Healing” by Chuck Colson;
“Facing the Reality of Evil” by Albert Mohler, Jr.,
“God Cares. God Loves. We Choose” by Bishop Desmond Tutu

Here’s my prayer for today:

God of love and justice, our hearts are stunned today by the horrifying events at Virginia Tech. We struggle even to know how to pray. Yet we ask You, above all, to let Your gracious presence be known to all who suffer this day, especially the families and friends of those who have died. Grant them Your peace that passes all understanding.
Help us, dear Lord, to learn what we must learn from this crisis. Give us hearts open to You. Keep us from using the pain of others to manipulate or callously advance our personal agendas. Help us to listen to each other, and most of all to You.
Thank You for being a God who is not watching us from a distance. Thank You for entering into the pain and sorrow of this broken world. Thank You for being present with us when we suffer. Thank You for giving us hope when all seems hopeless, through Christ our Lord.

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